The Derelict Chronicles: Chapter 2

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The woman was still in my backyard, just standing there in the family burial plot. My phone still wasn’t charging, or turning on, or doing anything. It made me really regret telling gram’s lawyer to get rid of the land line.

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Eventually I feel into an uneasy rest, shifting between sleep and wakefulness. Jasper growled a few times, nearly scaring me out of my wits, but nothing happened. Around three in the morning I peeked out the windows and, to my relief and worry, the woman was gone. So where was she now? I decided not to dwell on that unsettling thought, got up, and changed into my night gown. I crawled into bed again, praying for an uneventful night.

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When I woke up it was late morning. The sun was streaming in from the floor-to-ceiling windows, bathing the room in a pure, happy golden light. I breathed deeply. Maybe I had been imagining everything.

I checked my phone and it was on and pulsing with a soft green light – a missed message.

Or five.

All of them were from local numbers which I didn’t recognize. No one had bothered to leave a message and I wasn’t about to call them back. If they wanted to talk to me, they needed to leave me a voice mail.

I got dressed and forewent a shower – instead I went straight down to the garden to pick up where I left off last night. I did take my bottle of pepper spray with me, just in case.

When I cleared the porch, however, I knew it would be unnecessary. Henry, one of the farm hands, was tending to some of the rosebushes out front and called a hello to me. He didn’t seem concerned in the least. So why should I be?

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I had all but convinced myself that I had dreamed the whole thing when a deep, chocolatey voice called out, “Miss Derelict? I’m Sheriff Quezada. You called our office last night?”

He was gorgeous – tall, dark, handsome, and with just a slight accent when he spoke. I was suddenly wishing I’d taken that shower.

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I set my watering can down and brushed my hands off on my shorts, uneasily stepping out of the garden gate to go greet him. I shook his hand, mumbling something about it being nice to meet him. He didn’t seem too thrilled to see me, though, and had this look of thinly veiled concern. Almost like he thought I was going to snap and start killing people.

“What happened last night, ma’am?”

Straight and to the point. “Why don’t we go inside?” I asked, glancing over my shoulder. Jose, the other worker, was watching us with interest while he brushed down Bonnie’s sleek blonde coat.

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We went inside and I made some coffee – by made, I mean burnt. He drank it anyway, more to be polite than anything, and watched me with his hawk-like eyes. Waiting. Sizing me up. Diagnosing me.

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I cleaned up our glasses before I began speaking. “There’s something going on with this house,” I said finally. “I don’t know what it is. There’s just this… feeling. Something bad is hanging around here. And then that woman showed up and the man by the porch-”

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“There used to be a lot of stories about this land,” he said suddenly. “About some old seadog pirate burying all of his treasure here. Maybe they were scavenging for that. Or looking for your grandmother’s money. Everyone here knows she left her entire fortune to you. That stuff’s supposed to be kept quiet, but in small towns-”

“So you’re telling me that’s it?” I asked, my voice raising. “That’s all the effort you’re going to put in? Some bullshit, made up story you just pulled out of your ass?”

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“Now hold on, Miss Derelict-”

“This is all about closing a case before it starts,” I snapped. My CSI knowledge of police work probably wasn’t too accurate, but I’m sure my tone made it clear what I was implying. In case it wasn’t, my stupid mouth added in, “You’re just wanting the end result to be more black ink than red. It’s all about the job and the promotion; the paycheck and the eventual pension.”

He got up and started to walk out. He didn’t say anything else, or hold me in contempt… he just stood up and started walking.

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I was never one to learn, though. I followed him, badgering him, asking him to prove me wrong. Once we cleared the front doors, he spun on me.

“I’ll be by here tonight,” he snapped. “I will stand back there all night and wait for someone to show up. If someone shows up, I’ll take care of it. If not, then this call is closed to the department. You can call next time someone shows up.”

I stood there, mouth hanging open, and watched him turn, heading up the path toward the main road and his cruiser.

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That evening, just as I was turning in for bed, I glanced out the window. He was there, on his phone, probably telling his wife how he was having to babysit some whiny bitch who just moved into the neighborhood.

Asshole.

A really hot asshole. But an asshole nonetheless.

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I slept like a baby. I don’t remember waking up once through the entire night.

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The next morning, I awoke right at dawn and managed to catch the shifting colors of pink and purple cascade through the room. A glance out the windows proved that the Sheriff wasn’t outside.

I got dressed and grabbed some breakfast before opening the front door. There was a sticky note on the door knocker – a scribbled note from Sheriff Quezada.

“Ms. Derelict,

I am being called into the station. It’s seven fifty nine am. No movement all night. Call if you need me.

Sergio Quezada”

There was a number scrawled at the bottom of the page. I grabbed my phone from my back pocket, only then noticing the five missed calls – all the same numbers from the previous day. I rolled my eyes and added Quezada’s number into my contacts.

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I wasn’t going to solve anything sitting at home or weeding the garden. I had to go into town and look into Quezada’s theory, see if it held up at all. I wasn’t too thrilled about taking my bike through the small, sleepy town, but… beggars can’t be choosers. Annoy a few townsfolk with an obnoxious bike motor or possibly end up killed by strange naked women looking for something from your house? The choice was pretty clear.

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My first stop was the library. I tried looking through book after book of old local folk lore. A few mentioned sea pirates or vengeful island spirits, but nothing mentioned my grandmother’s islet.
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I did, however, find an old yearbook which featured me as a pimply-faced teen with long, strawberry blonde hair and braces. God, did I really not know how to apply eyeliner back then?
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The next best attempt was trying to use the computer. I knew I was destined to fail the second I heard dial-up tones when I tried to access the internet.
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“Layla? Layla, is that… you?”
I glanced up, frowning. There was a boy about my age standing there, looking familiar but… off. His facial features were so familiar to me. Like someone I used to know so well-
“Damon?”
The guy cracked a smile. “It is you. I didn’t recognize you right away – blue hair? What – hell, it’s been forever. I heard you were back but I didn’t believe-“
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I got up and rushed over to him, pulling his bony frame against mine. Damon Jones – my first boyfriend in middle school. He was so different. What used to be a freckled, red-haired overweight school kid was now a smooth-faced, slender hipster. The transformation was so much to take in.
“I’ve missed you,” he breathed against my hair before pulling back. “You look great.”
“Shh!” Someone hissed from one of the stacks of books at a nearby table.
Damon rolled his eyes and took my hand, leading me out of the back door of the library and onto a small patio.
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We got seated and I fully realized how strange Damon looked. In the sunlight he looked sallow and waxen, like his skin was fake. There was a weird tattoo on his neck, too. I’d never thought Damon as one for tattoos. Then again, I never thought Damon as one for being thin, either.
Damon launched right in, unconcerned about my gaze sweeping over him. “Word’s going around your place got robbed night before last? Something about Sergio having to be there last night in case they came back?”
I rolled my eyes. Small towns. “I didn’t get robbed. Some creepy, half dead looking old woman was skulking around. She snarled at me and I freaked. Called the cops. They think I’m full of shit, though.”
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“Was it your grandma’s ghost?” he tried to joke. I didn’t smile.
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“It’s not funny, Damon. I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone. Seriously, this old woman is naked as the day she was born and snarling at me while wobbling around. And then she just stands in the graveyard for hours, staring up at my window!”
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A cloud passed over the sun and cast us in shadow. It was then I noticed Damon’s eyes – no longer large and blue but silver and shining like ethereal beacons. And then he smiled, his teeth glinting and… wrong. Pointed in places they shouldn’t be pointed.
“Welcome home, Layla. We’ve been expecting you.”
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